I write late
and for nothing
for no reason other than my love for writing
and my wish for peace
and no war
I write thinking of the pride of the young
when they become soldiers
Everybody loves a soldier
Then comes the call
Mankind let us fight only in games
and on virtual screens
Let us kill each other only in 3D, if need be
if violence must be and mayhem and carnage
Dissolve the armies
but I know no one will heed
my call for peace
As long as man exists
there will be soldiers, wars and armies
weapons and battles
and poets mourning these
We cannot live without our warrior half, our dark brother
The only way out is to be at war with oneself
A.V. KOSHY ~ a teacher of some merit, is presently Assistant Professor, in the Dept of English, Faculty of Arts (Girls), Academic College, Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Before this he has also worked as Head of the Liberal Arts Department in Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, Associate Professor in Teacher Training College, Dept of English, in Al Khooms University, Libya, Assistant Professor in King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Head of the Dept, of English, Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore and Senior Lecturer, Dept of English, Fatima College, University of Kerala.
He has published several books, both poetry collections and treatises on poetry. He has also written ciriticism, short story, research and research papers. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prise. He is also a regular columnist for newsloop.in and contributor to Destiny Poets, UK. His greatest desire is to build a village for people having autism where all their needs are met. He runs an NGO called “Autism for Help Village Project” with his wife for this dream to come true.
“The Bardo” is a place of transition, perhaps akin to Purgatory. It is common ground and a sacred space of sorts. It’s intriguing to think of the Laundromat as a place like that . . .
David Attenborough makes a point in The Life of Mammals video about “Social Climbers” – monkeys. He says that you can tell how large a monkey’s social group is by the size of his brain. Baboons live in large, complex social structures and have the largest brains of all the monkeys. Surviving and thriving in a social environment means that you have to be able to assess situations and make an array of decisions – how to make allies and with whom, how and when and whom to fight, how to secure a mate and improve your chances of passing on your genes. Navigating social life is even more brain-bending if you’re human, I think. More subtleties are involved. Here’s a case in point: the laundromat.
When Jim and I were first married, I did laundry at the laundromat. I hated going there, for several reasons. First of all, I was pregnant. The smells nauseated me; the physical demands of standing to fold and hoisting large loads of clothes around exhausted me. It was a depressing place to be physically, but perhaps even more uncomfortable was the social aspect. You never know what strangers you might encounter. I have had some rather pleasant days at the laundromat. I met a psychic, once, who was very interesting. She could tell I was skeptical and not receptive, but she kept on talking to me nevertheless. Gradually, I relaxed and figured out how to respect her and appreciate her and communicate that to her. We parted with a hug and wished each other well. Mostly, I get a pleasant experience if I can do my laundry in silence and read a few short stories at the same time. What I often find is that the laundromat is a place to observe human suffering, my own and others’.
I happened to have selected a book of short stories by William Faulkner as my laundry companion. I grabbed it off of Steve’s stack figuring that short stories would fit nicely into those periods of time between cycles, and I wouldn’t mind being interrupted or distracted as much as I would if I were trying to tackle “heavier” reading. What I didn’t think about was that these stories of post-Civil War race relations would be cast for me on a backdrop of the urban reality of this century…and that the same awkward tensions would result. I felt like some of his characters, eavesdropping in the kitchen, when people in the laundromat would chatter on their cell phones to friends and social agents. Outwardly, I guess I was trying to be invisible. I couldn’t help picking up snatches of their lives and wondering about their stories. For example, Jerry and his family…
I’ve seen Jerry twice now. Yesterday, I recognized him as I approached the laundromat. He was wearing a diaper under sweatpants, shoes, and no shirt. He was hitting his head repeatedly and grunting. Or maybe it was more like moaning. The woman he was with may have been his mother. She was in a wheelchair with an artificial leg that looked like a sandbag. He was with another woman as well, perhaps his sister. She was the one doing the laundry. I remembered them from a month ago. They came with about seven large, black garbage bags full of clothes. They took a social services shuttle bus to get there; I knew this from hearing the mother make cell phone calls about being picked up. This woman had the sweetest, kindest voice you would ever hope to hear. Her voice was full of compassion and pain; it was lilting and rich and Southern. I would cast her as a black Mammy in one of Faulkner’s stories. Her manners were impeccable. If she had to pass around me, she excused herself, and I felt like apologizing profusely for being in the way. Her daughter (?), the other woman, spoke almost unintelligibly as she did the laundry and corralled Jerry. Even the woman in the wheelchair told her, “I can’t understand what you’re saying.” Jerry likes to wander. They don’t want him to wander out to the street and get hit by a car. They don’t want him to bother the other people in the building. Their voices called out periodically, “Jerry. Jerry, come over here.” “Jerry, honey. Stop! Jerry, come here.”
When Jerry wanders near me, I don’t know what to do. I keep my head down and my eyes in my book. Would I frighten him if I made eye contact? Would he frighten me? Another gentleman was there. He helped bring Jerry back inside when he wandered out. The mother thanked him, “You’re so sweet. Thank you, sir.” They exchanged names. He told her that he has a grandson who was hit by a car at age seven; the grandson is now twenty-five and has brain damage. “Oh, so you know. You understand,” she sighed. I learned that Jerry is thirty-two years old.
In the other corner of the room, there was a mother with a five-year old daughter, London. She looked about five, anyway. London had a pacifier. I heard her mother yelling at her. “London! Get up offa that floor! Sit your butt down here!” Her voice was sharp and angry. London began to cry. There is not much to interest a five-year-old in the laundromat. She hadn’t brought any toys or books to occupy her.
The mother talked on her cell phone while London played with the lid of the laundry hamper. I made eye contact with the child as we went about our business. She silently bent her wrist toward me, while sucking her pacifier. “Oh, did you hurt yourself?” I asked. “London! Get out of the way!” her mother said.
In the Faulkner story, Master Saucier Weddell is trying to get back to Mississippi from Virginia. He is the defeated. He and his traveling companion, his former slave who is very attached to him and his family, find themselves in Tennessee at a farmhouse. These victors are extremely suspicious. They think Mr. Weddell is a Negro. Actually, he’s Cherokee and French. The story is short, but intense. The traveler and the farmer’s younger son end up being killed in an ambush by the farmer and his Union soldier son, Vatch. The last two sentences read, “He watched the rifle elongate and then rise and diminish slowly and become a round spot against the white shape of Vatch’s face like a period on a page. Crouching, the Negro’s eyes rushed wild and steady and red, like those of a cornered animal.”
I finished my laundry in silence. I waved my fingers and mouthed “goodbye” to London who had been banished to the corner. Her mother didn’t see me.
At home, the late afternoon sun shines down on the quilt on my bed. Steve isn’t home, and it’s very quiet. I feel like crying. My brain is not big enough to figure out why.
PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ is a contributor to Into the Bardo. She started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.
“My courage is in the affirmation of my part in co-creation”, she wrote in her first published poem, composed on her thirtieth birthday and submitted alongside her seven-year-old daughter’s poem to Cricket magazine. Her spiritual evolution began in an Episcopal environment and changed in pivotal moments: as a teenager, her twenty-year-old sister died next to her in a car crash and, decades later, Priscilla’s husband and the father of her four children died of coronary artery disease and diabetes in his sleep at the age of forty-seven Awakening to mindfulness and reconsidering established thought patterns continues to be an important part of her life work.
Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.
I’m trying to follow the theme of an essay, which I wrote for Into the Bardo, “Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat (Fortune Favours The Bold)”, which was published here at the beginning of August. It was a deeply thoughtful piece that probably comes from my own anxieties at the state of the world. In consequence, it became an overly long and involved treatise, in which I tried to encapsulate my understanding of what needs to happen to rescue the human race from itself.
An impossible dream, you might say, and you could be right. However, a couple of weeks after publishing it, I stumbled upon something that struck me between the eyes! It was an eight hundred year old poem, which felt as if it were a personal message from somewhere unknown! Also, another article that was posted here on Into The Bardo, last Saturday,A Biassed Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: A Message from the Dalai Lama, (Excerpts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August), spoke of how human ‘agitation’ was the cause of many of our woes. This was a particularly enlightening read; I recommend it to you highly.
The first three verses of this poem, appeared from Rumi’s Facebook page and struck me in a number of ways, not least of all because it represents a special milestone in the recognition of so much that I believe about the human condition, which is to recognise our own individuality, our own convictions and that, I would argue, we should take responsibility for our own actions. I had, therefore to seek out its source and find the rest of the poem, written by that much revered Thirteenth Century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī.
“Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world” – isn’t this the space between our ears?
“Why do you weep? The source is within you” – ditto
I have, for a long time, recognised that, whilst we may cover ourselves with a veneer of sophistication, we cannot hide from the frailty of our very human condition. The Industrial Revolution, the engineering and technology, which has resulted over the following two hundred and fifty years, may have produced some remarkable examples of our ingenuity, but the problems of the world that remain, which are, for the most part, of our own making, are the same in essence as they were when this poem was written nearly eight hundred years ago, when humans were still humans, but without the technology. It seems a strange irony that this could be a sign that our resultant wealth, which is far more widely distributed than it was eight hundred years ago, has blurred our vision of life’s purpose, whilst at the same time (certainly in the case of this post) aided it, with computer technology.
When we’ve learned this lesson, when we’ve learned, not just how to recognise this fact, but how to respond to it, to imbue the young minds of future generations with the knowledge that they need to discover how they are going to embrace all cultures, all religions and all manner of human personalities (because we adults have not made a great job of it so far and are clearly not entirely capable of teaching them) then, and only then, will we be truly able to move on as a race … and awaken to that much vaunted new dawn, that enlightenment.
I give you the words of one, who probably knew much more and was more qualified than most of us living today to understand the human condition …
A Garden Beyond Paradise
Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!
From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.
From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.
Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?
When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!
But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!
JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Oc casional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).
John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising“. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.
* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.